PsyPost reports on a study of social isolation – “the objective state of having limited social relationships or contact with others” – that found the problem grows worse as children age out of adolescence, but that boys start out worse off than girls:
This research used data from two longitudinal studies, including the Add Health, and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Add Health followed U.S. adolescents between grades 7-12 in 1994-1995, with 5 interviews between 1995 and 2018. The HRS is an ongoing biannual survey that was launched in 1992, including adults born between 1931-1941, and their partners of any age. Every 6 years, a cohort of adults ages 50-55 are added to the study. The total sample of the current work included 12,885 women and 9271 men.
The dependent variable, social isolation, reflects a summary index of social connection across numerous domains, including romantic relationships, family and friends, and the community. The primary independent variables were gender, age, and partnership history (i.e., married/cohabiting, stably partnered, ever disrupted – including widowhood, divorce, disrupted cohabitation). The researchers adjusted analyses for education level, race/ethnicity, and self-rated health.
Analyses revealed that men are more isolated than women in the younger Add health sample, while women are more isolated than men in the older HRS sample. At all ages, men reported higher levels of social isolation compared to women.
You can read more of Debra Umberson’s team’s research here, in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.